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Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy Adapted from Fine Cooking

When I wrote about our culinary adventures in St. Barthelemy, FWI in March, one of our readers, “Mike”, got into a spirited discussion about how the scallops I’d waxed poetic over, were not local.  In fact, he was pretty irate about seafood in general and posted as a comment:  “Why the lack of eating local seafood?  Scallops multiple times mentioned (frozen and cryovaced from America)…so really as a foodie…how good can it be?” Now “Mike” is a Massachusetts native and his knowledge of seafood is impressive.  In a subsequent comment, he explained: “ Scallops do not freeze well…they shrivel and such…and because of that the frozen ones are not “dry” scallops, they are the ones that have that phosphate solution added to them to plump them up and make them hold water and look better after they defrost.” All that being said, I still loved my St. Barth’s scallops.  And when we got home and I came across a recipe for a Stir Fry with scallops, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some fresh scallops.

Scallop Fishing, one of the great
North Atlantic seafood management

Years ago, in Indiana, I’d asked a waitress if her fish were fresh.  She was insistent they were ‘fresh frozen”, a phrase that’s stuck with me for the clever way around the fact that yes, the fish had been frozen.  But it had undergone its freezing while fresh.  Some very clever copywriting there, I must say!   So armed with my new scallop knowledge, I quizzed the man behind the counter at our local fishmonger.  He seemed almost hurt by my questions.  The scallop, he informed me is one of the great success stories in Atlantic Ocean fishing.  And if I didn’t believe him, he suggested going to www.seafoodwatch.org and seeing for myself, which I did.

The Scallop’s Filter Feeder at work

The Scallops range is from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland all the way down to Cape Hatteras, N.C.   Like most Atlantic fishing these days, management of fishing stocks has been closely controlled. And those controls have been a whopping success.  Where stocks were depleted by over-fishing, they’ve been restored.  Where shortages still exist, those areas are protected.  The vast majority of scallops sold on the East Coast are wild caught.  And they’re one of the few instances where farmed fish are considered actually better for the environment than their wild caught counterparts.  Because scallops are “filter feeders’, they live on tiny particles filtered out of seawater. This filtration actually helps improve water quality and clarity.  So armed with my wild-caught, unquestionably fresh and robustly size scallops I went home to prepare this glorious stir-fry. 


Scallops are often described as being sweet.  So they form a perfect foil here for the spicy additions of Asian flavors from bean sauce and ginger, salty soy sauce and fragrant fresh garlic.  The recipe also calls for baby bok choy.  Now Bok Choy runs from 3 to 8 inches in height so what constitutes ‘baby’ bok choy may be subject to discussion.  What I noticed at my local Trader Joe’s where bok choy is a staple is that the most recent offerings have all included tiny little bok choy.  That is what you should work with here. It’s only stir-fried for all of two minutes so you want to use the smallest vegetables you can find. As with all stir-fries, get absolutely everything laid out before you start cooking.   This recipe was advertised as being for 2-3 people or 4-6 if it was part of a multi-dish Asian meal.  I’d say make it for to 2 people or risk the wrath of 4 to 6 people who would certainly clamor for more.

Here is the recipe:

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